A Thanksgiving reminder: Many still can’t access healthy food in the U.S.


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Kelly Walker

Thanksgiving break is almost here! Soon, it’ll be time to go home and reconnect with family over an abundance of food and acknowledge what you’re thankful for.  One of the many things that you might (and should) be thankful for is your access to food in the first place.

I never gave issues like hunger and food insecurity on campus much thought until the hunger strike became a common topic of conversation last semester. I thought that the U.S. was, if anything, overfed. Since then, I have learned that there is a key difference between the concept of food insecurity and hunger.

Food insecurity is a state in which a person lacks access to enough affordable, nutritious food. Hunger, on the other hand, refers to the feeling of being hungry which may result from food insecurity. Hunger is a serious issue in the U.S., and people experiencing hunger are in need of immediate relief.

Programs and student organizations on campus like Big Blue Pantry and Campus Kitchen work towards this goal of providing relief to hungry students on campus. Farm to Fork lunches, currently held every Wednesday 11 a.m. -2 p.m. in 207 Funkhouser, are one of Campus Kitchen’s greatest accomplishments. These lunches are nutritious, locally-sourced meals produced from recovered food waste on campus offered for free to students. This program not only combats hunger, but also addresses the sustainability aspect of food waste and sourcing.

As we address immediate needs, we also have to ask questions about long-term systemic problems that feed (no pun intended) this cycle of hunger and overabundance of food. Why are people unable to access nutritious food when a ridiculous amount of nutritious food is wasted in the U.S.?

Food insecurity also somehow coexists in the U.S. with an obesity epidemic. Part of the issue stems from industrialized agriculture and the financial advantage of producing and promoting processed foods that have little to no nutritional value. A cheap cheeseburger from McDonald’s might satiate the hunger of financially struggling people, but it doesn’t solve the long-term issue of food insecurity.  

Clearly, our current food system needs our generation’s innovation. We need to initiate projects and movements to catalyze social, economic, and environmental change to meet the needs of both humans and the environment. Consider getting involved on campus with student organizations like Universities Fighting World Hunger and Campus Kitchen or with programs like Big Blue Pantry, One Café and the Basic Needs Center.

If you’re interested in taking this a step further, consider completing the Food Systems and Hunger Studies Certificate or joining the Sustainable Agriculture program through either a major or a minor.

For the love of agriculture, food, and the environment is a monthly column by UK’s The Food Connection intern, Kelly Walker. Read last month’s column here.